The Day of The Lord
© C. O. Bishop 2010 (reviewed and expanded, 2020)
I heard a sermon recently, written and delivered by a sincere man, a believer, but which stirred me to re-study the subject of the “Day of Jehovah” or, in the New Testament, “Day of the Lord”. The man had correctly read 2nd Peter 3:10-12 to describe the day of the Lord, but had incorrectly taught that it all happened at the same time. (read it) We see there, that the Day of the Lord comes as a thief in the night, and that it results in the complete destruction of the earth.
There is a fair amount of confusion about the subject, so, I would like to begin at the beginning, so to speak.
The first mention of the Day of the LORD is in Isaiah 2:12. [The word “Lord” is in all caps, in the KJV, indicating that the word being translated is the “tetragrammaton”… the Hebrew four-consonant word, YHWH, that is sometimes translated Jehovah, or, occasionally, in modern Bibles, “Yahweh”. We simply do not know how the word is to be pronounced, but, since, in the New Testament, the word was translated Lord—from the Greek, kurios , then I will feel free to simply point out the different words, and use the same English words: “The Day of the Lord.”] The introduction of the concept is a warning that God will judge the proud ones of the earth, and specifically, that judgment would begin at Jerusalem; that he would judge her before blessing and restoring her. Isaiah goes on to elaborate on the theme and mentions the day of the Lord, in eight more passages. Frequently, the theme is enlarged upon without using the full phrase, but only calling in “in that day”. Listen to what the various scriptures say about this Day:
The day of the Lord is said to be a day of vengeance, of salvation, and recompense. (Isaiah 34:8) Everyone left alive in Jerusalem will be declared holy—a cloud and smoke by day will mark the city and a shining, flaming fire by night. (Isaiah 4:1-6)
The Messiah, (root of Jesse) will be eagerly sought after by the Gentiles, and the twelve tribes of Israel will be united again—literally, and relationally. The Dispersed Jews will be brought back to Israel from everywhere on earth, and will get along perfectly, for the first time in history. (Isaiah 11:10-13)
Israel will blossom, and abound with fruit, and be utterly blessed by God…after a terrible judgment. (Isaiah 27:6)
Idolatry will finally be utterly done away with, voluntarily, as every man will get rid of his idols. (Isaiah 2:20, 17:7, etc.)
It will be a day of cruel Wrath and fierce anger (Isaiah 13:6-11)
It will be a day of blessing, and peace, and gentleness. (Isaiah 19:23-25) Are you starting to see some apparent contradictions? And yet ALL these prophecies will be fulfilled literally, in the Day of the Lord. If any fall short, then God’s Word would fall short. Remember that they are to be fulfilled in the Day of the Lord, not before. There may be similar things that happen before, or have already happened, but the ultimate fulfillment is in the Day of the Lord.
The country south of Israel, once known as Edom, or Idumea, will be destroyed—its creeks will flow with pitch (what we call “tar,” I think), and sulfurous dust will cover the ground. The tar (if that is what it is) will burn, and will not be put out. There will be some wildlife that finds a habitat there, but humans will not live there anymore. (Isaiah 34:5-11; 63:1-6)
Not an Ordinary “Day”
Isaiah concludes by stating that God will judge the whole earth, and that after that judgment, the whole world will come to worship Him. (Isaiah 66:15-24) Interesting…that is pretty much what the book of the Revelation describes, too, as the tribulation, the Second Coming of Christ, the destruction of the enemies of God, and the blessedness of the Kingdom that follows. But it takes 1007 years, not one single “ordinary” day.
So we see that the Day of the Lord is not a 24-hour day, nor even a single occurrence, but a series of occurrences that follow a prescribed format and a God-ordained schedule. Incidentally, Isaiah did not have the whole picture: there was more to come, after the Kingdom age.
Jeremiah confirms Isaiah’s message (Jeremiah 25:29-38)—he says that Judgment will begin at Jerusalem, but will cover the earth, and that the slain will be from one end of the earth to the other, and that they will not even be buried, but will be allowed to rot on the face of the earth.
Ezekiel confirms the terror of the coming day. (Ezekiel 30:1-3, ff) He also tells of some huge changes, regarding the temple, itself. (Ezekiel, chapters 41-48)
Church Age Excluded (sidebar)
Daniel (9:23-26)does not use the phrase “the Day of the Lord”, however, he describes the Day of the Lord and the 483 years prior to the Messiah (in other words, prior to Jesus’s life and death) but skips the Church age entirely, as does every single Old Testament prophet…they were given no hint of the mystery of the Church age. Daniel’s message begins with Nehemiah’s day, and runs as far as the Cross, then skips straight to the tribulation, and beyond. We have been in the Church Age for nearly two thousand years, and the prophets did not see it coming at all. The New Testament confirms (Ephesians 3:4-6) that they did not know about it. They weren’t told!
More prophecies of the Day of the Lord
Joel warns that the priesthood won’t escape God’s judgment. (Joel 1:13-15, 2:1-11) The whole nation will suffer the judgment. But he also points to the coming blessing. (Joel 2:18-3:21)
Amos reminds the people that the Day of the Lord would begin with horrific judgment on Israel…and was not something to be looked forward to. (Amos 5:18-20) But he, too, confirms that after the terrible judgment of God there will be restoration and blessing. (Amos 9:11-15)
Obadiah 15-21 emphasizes the judgment on the heathen (gentiles), and does not specifically mention the judgment on Israel.
Zephaniah 1:7-18 again emphasizes the judgment on Israel.
Zechariah 12:1-14, 13-1-6 describe the judgment and the salvation of Jerusalem, and the subsequent holiness of the people of God. Zechariah 14:1-21 describes the judgment of the enemies of Israel, and the fact that the survivors of that judgment will be worshipping God thereafter, and coming to Jerusalem year after year to do so.
Malachi 4:1-7 concludes the Old Testament with the assurance that the Day of the Lord was certainly coming, and that Elijah would precede its coming. (Jesus talked about that too, and said it was fulfilled in John the Baptist. Interestingly, Elijah appeared personally, on the Mount of Transfiguration, and evidently will appear again, during the latter period of the Great Tribulation, though he is not specifically named in that passage.)
Jesus spoke about the same period of time, in Matthew 24:4-44. In verses 29-31, he specified when the second coming would happen: it will be after the Great Tribulation.
New Testament Warnings
In Acts 1:11, the angels said that Jesus would return in like manner as they had seen him leave (ascending into a cloud)…so they could expect a physical, bodily visible return. But in Acts 2:19, 20 Peter again described the terrible signs of the Day of the Lord.
No further mention is made until Paul is correcting some bad doctrine that had already crept in, in Thessalonica. Evidently some people had been teaching that the Day of the Lord had already occurred. (2nd Thessalonians 2:2…called the “day of Christ,” here)
Paul gives them some hope in 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18, and describes what we call the “rapture.” (Compare 1st Corinthians 15:51, 52) Then (1st Thessalonians 5:1-5) he describes the Day of the Lord, and states that it will overtake the world “as a thief in the night”, but states that that day would not overtake them (the recipients of the letter), as they were not of the night. (Ephesians 5:8 points out that the believers—all of them—were no longer of the darkness but of the light, and admonished them to behave accordingly.) 1st Thessalonians, chapters four and five are continuing the same context! The events of chapter four immediately precede those of chapter five. Chapter four describes the “thief in the night” portion. What follows is total nightmare.
It is interesting, too, to see that the beginning of the tribulation will be associated with what the World will see as security and safety—peace, in fact. It seems as though the “middle-east peace treaty,” that everyone has wanted for years, will finally actually happen, but that treaty will be the beginning of the tribulation. (This is speculation on my part, to some extent, but give it some thought: why else would the whole world say “Peace and Safety!”? Compare Daniel 9:27)
Those who rejected the truth before the Rapture will not “change their minds” after it. (another sidebar)
In his second letter to the Thessalonian believers, Paul further described the events of the tribulation, specifically describing the antichrist, and explaining how the people would respond to the rapture (apparently,) in saying that God will send a “strong delusion” so that those who had previously rejected the Gospel would not believe (because of the rapture?) but that those who had not rejected it (never heard it, or whatever) would apparently still be free to believe. (2nd Thessalonians 2:1-12) Read it carefully…the verb tenses are important. This is why millions will be saved during the tribulation, but none who previously rejected His Grace.
“The Day of the Lord,” again
Finally, we get to 2nd Peter 3:10-12, the passage that was so poorly treated in the sermon I heard. The verses truly do describe the Day of the Lord…beginning with the rapture, as a matter of fact. Consider: it comes as a thief in the night—not as an armed robber at dawn, or an attack at mid-day. The “thief” comes by night specifically to take away with Him something of value. And those sleeping are not aware it has been taken until they awaken: Too late!
Remember that in 1st Thessalonians 5, Paul pointed out that the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, immediately after he described the catching away of the church. He stated that this was the beginning of the destruction, similar to the beginning of labor, for a woman in childbirth. (“The time has come and it cannot be evaded or postponed.”)
But what part of the tribulation could be described as coming as a thief in the night? The wars? The famines? All the judgments of the tribulation are done openly, and known worldwide. The physical return of Jesus is seen by all: it is the single most “public” event in history, to that date.
The only aspect of the Day of the Lord that can be likened to a thief in the night is the Rapture of the Church. The World will be in profound spiritual darkness, and deeply asleep, in regard to the call of God. Jesus comes silently (from the World’s perspective) and takes away the Church secretly (so far as the World is concerned). We will hear the call! We will see him face to face! But those left behind will only wake up to find a bunch of “Christian whackos” have “gone missing.” (Big deal! Good riddance! Party time!) And, at about that time, just before or just after the rapture, evidently a seven-year peace treaty (Daniel 9:27) will be signed with Israel. Everyone will rejoice, and say, “Peace and safety!” not knowing the tribulation is upon them.
The Tribulation will conclude with the physical return of Christ, and we will be coming back with Him. (Revelation 19:11-21) Those opposing him will die in the attempt. The Judgment of the living nations will immediately follow (Matthew 25:31-46). Those who have become believers during the Tribulation (and survived it) will go into the kingdom in their natural bodies (verse 34), but those who were enemies of God will go directly into judgment—specifically Hades. The kingdom will last 1000 years (Revelation 20…confirmed six times in the first seven verses), and will be the place and time-period of blessing described by all the prophets. During that Kingdom age is the time when “the Lion shall lie down with the calf.” (Isaiah 11:6-8) The whole world will know Jesus personally, face to face. (Jeremiah 31:34; Habakkuk 2:14) They will come and worship Him there in Jerusalem, year after year, as we read in other passages.
But not all will willingly serve him…children will be born who do not want to serve him, and there will be a growing undercurrent of unrest. There will be occasional minor rebellions, which will be quickly crushed. Nations that choose to ignore the feast of tabernacles, specifically, will find that the rains “choose to ignore” their lands. It specifically says that Jesus will “reign with an iron scepter”. It will not be a re-run of “Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild” On the other hand, he will literally know the heart of every human, so there will never be a “miscarriage of justice.” Jesus is (and always has been) the Judge of all the earth, and He will do no wrong.
The Kingdom will culminate in a final attempted rebellion by those who had pretended subservience and loyalty during the kingdom-age (Parable of the wheat and the tares: Matthew 13:24-30; 37-43), but the rebels will be rounded up by angelic means (none other than Satan and his cronies, who instigated the rebellion) and the human rebels will be burned on the spot.
The End of the Age
At that point, the skies will open, and a Great White Throne will appear in the sky. The Judgment which is referred to as the “Great White Throne Judgment” ensues immediately. The Day of the Lord is about to end. This judgment pronounces sentence upon all the lost souls of all time, and they all are cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15)
The very next scene shows the new heaven and new earth, the old having passed away… How? Well, that is what 2nd Peter 3:10, 11, 12 are referring to—the fact that the heaven and earth shall pass away with a “fervent heat and a great noise!” I find it interesting that Colossians 1:17 says “…and in Him all things consist” (hold together)—if Jesus is literally what is “holding all things together,” then what would happen if he “let go?” A “fervent heat and a great noise,” I’ll bet!
Now, while we are thinking about, and looking at, the passage in 2nd Peter, please notice that the context in Peter includes 2nd Peter 3:7-9: “But the heavens and the earth which are now, are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is, with the Lord, as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
AH! So, maybe there was precedent for understanding that the 1007(+) years that constitute the “Day of the Lord” do not violate any scriptural norm. God is not restricted in His use of time, as we are. A millennium passes, and it is as if a day has passed. God is simply not affected by time. Time was created for the sake of Man, and will apparently end with the passing of this world.
Don’t miss the point here, though—we Christians are running out of time! We are supposed to be ambassadors for God, here on earth. We are supposed to have the same heart for the lost that God has. We do not have to be afraid of the coming judgment for our own sakes, but we should be afraid for the sake of the lost. Judgment is coming, and, like it or not, we are the only messengers sent to avert disaster for the people. Angels do not have the privilege of sharing the Gospel: Only Humans get this assignment!
So, to summarize: the Day of the Lord begins with the rapture, which happens silently and secretly, as a thief in the night, where the World is concerned, and which ends in the destruction of the world, as we know it, resulting in the establishment of a new heaven and new earth, (Revelation 21:1.) We are not told much about the new world. I think we will find it satisfactory.J
But, I am anxious that we conduct our lives in such a manner that our Savior will also find us satisfactory. We are already saved, but we are told that we can add rewards to salvation. Salvation is a gift that has been given and it will not be lost. But rewards can be missed out on, and we will be grieved if we lose those opportunities.
Let us consider how to live so as to please the One who died for us. Anything else is ultimately worthless.
I am printing these notes and providing them to any who want them, in the church. My recommendation would be that you take the time to look up and read all the passages cited in the notes, re-examining the message as you do so. I do not want you to believe anything simply on my word…you need a “thus saith the Lord!” So please study the passages, ask questions, and establish your own convictions regarding what is to come.
If you are reading these notes online, feel free to download the notes and print them, for study purposes.
If you have specific questions, please feel free to contact me. I will do my best to answer questions and explain the notes, as needed.